The Babylon Affect

Genesis 11:6 – The LORD said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.

God saw all the amazing things the “globalized” people of the earth were accomplishing and He saw it as a negative.  Why would great advancements, huge building programs and international cooperation be seen as a negative?  Because God knew that along with “nothing they plan to do will be too difficult” would also come an arrogant practice of anything goes.

So it has taken several thousands of years for the world to be “globalized” again to the point where language differences are of little consequence when all you have to do is hit “translate page” on Google or upload a comparable app on your smart phone for instant, real time translation.  Just yesterday I saw and advertisement for an ear insert that instantly translates a language.  There is again no language barrier in the world.  As a result, truly amazing things are taking place in the advancement of the world in technology, medicine, farming, science, construction, manufacturing as well as equally negative, anything goes, factors of relativism, pride and debauchery.

An amazing amount of these “advancements” have taken place in my lifetime.  I was visiting with my father a few months back and we were discussing the decline of the church’s influence in America in particular.  He made the point that WWII was a significant factor in the beginning of the globalization of the world.  Prior to WWII, the vast majority of people were born, grew up and died all within a few miles while all the time going to the same church, generally knowing the same people as well as being subject to the same peer influence and pressure for most social and character life issues.  The effect of WWII on that localized influence was monumental.  With the advancement and reduced cost of both local and international travel, it was no longer assumed that you would live and die in your “home town”.  Troops from across the globe, in addition to fighting a war, were exposed to vastly different and exciting new states, countries and cultures.  Combine this shrinking of the world via travel with the ease of international communication and collaboration and what was once the local village ultimately became the World Wide Web breaking down all remaining barriers.

Don’t get me wrong, I see it as a good thing when somebody in South Africa comes up with a piece of some medical puzzle and he is able to instantly collaborate with someone or even several someones in other countries to affect a breakthrough in medicine.  That is not the problem God saw with common tongue and communication.  It’s when some guy with a foot fetish, (or substitute some other fringe activity) who because of social media and the ability to search the whole world in an instant for others with the same interest, no longer feels alone and the need to hide or curtail his vice.  He now feels validated and accepted practicing what would have otherwise been viewed as weird and perhaps even deviant to his local community.  Don’t believe me.  Oh you doubters, there are now foot worship fetish parties all over the world.

http://www.footnight.com/la.html

When it comes to appreciating nice looking feet, perhaps there is little concern for the decline of worldwide morality.  There are, however, other incredibly destructive things which have come “out of the closet” in my lifetime.  And I’m not just talking about homosexuality.  In the big scheme of things, homosexuality may be one of the lesser evils which have found validation in today’s society as a result of the shrinking world.  By far the most destructive things to emerge “triumphant” in modern society are areas in which the church has capitulated to “right side of history” and culturally correct or expedient practices.  The reason falling standards in the church bears so much consideration is because, lest we forget, “judgment begins in the house of God” 1Peter 4:17.

I am going to be as blunt and honest as I can here because the future ability of the church to regain its effectiveness, influence and reputation in the world is at stake.  Just a short biblical lesson shouldn’t be too tedious for those who already know and it will be helpful for those who don’t (of which there are apparently multitudes).  From the very beginning of the establishment of the Jewish nation, leadership was admonished to not collect a big salary (multiply gold for themselves), to follow God’s eternal laws and to serve the people.  Most of them unfortunately failed to do this causing countless reoccurring problems.  Jesus however, as our most perfect shepherd/leader, did in fact model these eternal values by living a life of servant hood and sacrifice paired with an extremely modest lifestyle.  How is it then that today there are so many “pastors” who insult God’s commands and the very essence of who Jesus is by embracing living standards more closely resembling the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”?  It’s because they can go on line and find other pastors “succeeding” who have equally inflated opinions of themselves who live in million dollar homes and who collect 6 or 7 figure salaries.

It is primarily a modern day phenomenon in which a person can feel “called” into the ministry and service of Christ and have the prospect or expectation of being greatly enriched by doing so.  And if we are going to be completely honest, even the un-churched are often all too aware of the commands in scripture for a modest lifestyle among Christians and these affluent and greedy mega-church practices, which more closely resemble those in the corporate world, have them dismissing and tuning out entirely because of the blatant hypocrisy.

I’m going to sound a bit liberal here for a moment (please forgive me) but how do so many churches justify cushy couches, fancy coffee bars and worship leader spot lights combined with a multitude of projector screens, mood lighting and the latest internet technology while we still have the destitute, lost and desperate right outside our church doors.  I suggest it is our priorities which need remodeling – not our “out dated” facilities.  And here is the kicker, those “bigger, better, more” accoutrements are the very reason we are not drawing in or retaining our young people as they see these things as a shallow mimic of their entertainment world.  They are longing and searching for something very different than their most recent secular concert experience when it comes to engaging and worshiping a holy God – or was it for naught that God said “My ways are not your ways”?  And in Romans 12 when God exhorts us “Don’t become like the people of this world.  Instead change the way you think.”  What follows is a list of activities of servant hood, giving, teaching, showing mercy etc.  Conspicuously lacking is any mention of fancy buildings or big salaries.  This is not to say that functionally appropriate facilities are not necessary, but they cannot take precedence over the work of the ministry.

There are many more factors which have led to the church growing in its irrelevance.  In order to maintain those high salaries, fancy coffee bar lobbies and environmental sanctuaries, which by the way are resulting in ever increasing budgets, many churches have rolled over on many eternal biblical standards.  They simply can’t risk losing those tithe dollars so in order not to offend the offenders, long standing Biblical laws are massaged and equivocated on to include a hate for divorce that mirrors God’s (Malachi 2:16), an intolerance for adultery, teen sex, gossip, greed, homosexuality and more.  Pro-active mentoring and accountability for Godly character has become a fading and lost art.  I offer one glaring example from Malachi 2:13 & 14 where God plainly informs His people that the reason He no longer pays attention to their prayers and sacrifices is because of the high divorce rate.  Could it be stated any more plainly?  And here we are today with divorce rates in the church approaching the same level as in secular society.

I hope you are able to track with me on this as to the negatives of the church being “plugged in” to the progressive globalized world.  To possibly help illustrate this I will offer an example.  Most of us Christians, as well as non-Christians, view the Amish and similar communities as old fashion, behind the times and maybe even a bit weird.  But let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a minute and consider this quote from an article on the Amish Studies website.

“Why would God frown on a telephone? What sense does it make to keep a tractor at the barn but not take it to the field? Is it not inconsistent, if not outright hypocritical, to hire non-Amish drivers but refuse to own cars? And what could be the difference between 12-volt electricity from batteries and 110-volt current from public utility lines? These distinctions may look silly to outsiders, but within the context of Amish history they are important cultural adaptations that have helped to slow the pace of social change and keep worldliness at bay”.

Obviously the rejection of many types of technology hasn’t been a catch-all for the Amish, but in their close knit and tight communities the influence or validation of Biblically fringe practices have had little opportunity to foment and grow.  Not too unlike it might have been 100 years ago in a smaller community where if some guy in your church is abusing his wife and the other men in the church find out, they would have taken that guy out and given him a good talking to or more depending on the level of abuse.  Or if the guy with some other fetish or deviant inclination was unable to find others like himself in their town he might truly have understood that this was a lifestyle or way of thinking which he shouldn’t entertain.  But today, it almost doesn’t matter what fringe or deviant interest you might have, you are sure to find a few hundred if not several thousands of people “just like you” amongst the billions of people in the world for the simple reason you were able to search it on Google or some other social media and even go the their annual conference.

And on a more broad note, how is it that so many young people today feel the freedom to be dismissive and rude to their parents, teachers and other community “elders”?  Because they see it modeled every day on the latest TV sitcom, late night comedy “news” or selfie video on social media.  And if all those other young people are doing it then it must be ok and all those grey headed people are just stupid and out of touch by trying to hold onto those outdated practices of honor, character, respect, morality and hard work.  Even among many Christian youth it hardly even enters into their minds that the first commandment with a promise was to honor those “older” people in your life (parents).  They have been brainwashed into believing they know better after finding validation for their attitudes with the latest trending YouTube video and they do not even hesitate to inform you of their new found enlightenment and your “old and busted” views.

How unfortunate that the globalization and shrinking of our world through the ease of communication, and the internet in particular, has spawned 2 very different results.  One being the almost limitless capacity of our world to accomplish things formerly thought impossible as well as the ability for anti-God practices to gain an increasing foothold in the church because “everybody is doing it” and I can prove it because I read it somewhere on the internet today.

As much as it pains me (and the Lord) to say this, I don’t see things changing for the better in the church in general.  So many have fallen hook line and sinker for the Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Carl Lentz types who embrace feel good wealth fantasies, no worries about eternal punishment and an unwillingness to call blatant sexual sin – sin.  I am feeling more and more that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when He said that the path to eternal life is narrow and few will find it.  I am challenged everyday to watch my attitudes, anger, impatience, un-forgiveness as well as my devotion to the principals of scripture and how it compares to the life of Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit.  I have a long way to go, but I cannot turn aside  from that narrow path to run across the median to that wide and inviting road shouting to the rest of humanity, and so many who call themselves Christians, “wait for me, I’ll catch up”.  This is not about being on the right side of history.  This is about being hidden in Christ and Him alone.  And the promise is that if we do so we will be despised on this earth.

PS  As I was writing this over the past few weeks, I felt strongly that it was a prophetic word for the church.  I was praying the past few days for the Lord to confirm this word in my heart before I sent it out and this morning a good friend posted an excerpt from a short letter written by Derek Prince probably 25 years ago.  That letter parallels this blog in several ways and I felt it was a confirming encouragement to go forward.  Thanks Richard!  Link below

http://www.derekprince.org/publisher/file.aspx?id=1000021473

I have never asked this, but if this blog speaks to your spirit, pray about sharing it.

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Life’s consequences & harm reduction!

Growing up my parents emphasized the principal of cause and effect.  In essence, this was all about reaping what you sowed.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Where I have sown hard work and integrity I have reaped the benefit of a great 34 year marriage, a home, transportation, respectful and loving kids/grandkids and the peace of mind that only can only come from a clear conscience and a deep relationship with Jesus.  When I have tried to make shortcuts in life I have found the gain to be less than beneficial and short lived.

Take my shed for example.  Maybe I have had a trade show or a project in which I took my display or several tools out and when the show or project was over I didn’t take the time to put everything up in its place.  Sure it may have saved me some time on the front end, but in the last couple of weeks I have spent probably 15 – 20 hours picking up, organizing, cleaning and working on my shed as it had gotten to the place where I couldn’t even get around or find stuff.  I just wish I would learn my lesson because this is probably the 3rd or 4th time I have had to repeat this scenario.  But in the big scheme of things I haven’t really caused any long term harm or eternal profit from either my shed laziness or cleanliness.  There are other things of a similar nature to the shed story like taking aspirin for a headache because someone forgot to drink their morning coffee or drank too many Margaritas the night before.

Then there are things which seem like a good idea at the time but which can leave significant problems or devastation in the end.  Take the free distribution of clean needles to drug addicts or condoms to prostitutes or high school students.  Lots of good arguments can be made for trying to mitigate the negative effects of these challenges.  But truth be told, this kind of help serves simply as a crutch to enable bad behavior and which can even be viewed as tacit approval of the harmful activity.  Probably the most glaring example of this kind of “harm reduction” is abortion.  Someone is pregnant, they were raped, they have no money or husband and having a baby right now is simply not convenient to their current stage in life.

These examples are just a sampling of hundreds of tough life challenges which if practiced or handled in short cut fashion yield long term devastating consequences.  That is life without hope.  That is life without REAL help. That is life without God.  And life like that really sucks and most often ends in despair, desperation or worse.

God’s laws of conduct were not written to keep us from having “fun”.  The Father knows how harmful certain activities are and He was gracious enough to warn us and direct us away from danger by providing us with an operating manual for humans – the Bible.  Maybe you are one of those who thinks you should be able to huff paint fumes and not loose brain cells or share drug needles and be immune from hepatitis.  What about being able to have free sex or gay sex and not get a sexually transmitted disease or eat only junk food and not get sick.  But then you would be one who thinks he know better than God as He is the one who designed those consequences in order to direct, scare and keep us away from activity which hurts us.  A fair amount of our medical research and practices are harm reduction based as they are geared in the direction of trying to eliminate naturally occurring problems resulting from not obeying Gods laws.

cause & effect

For Christians, there is a double whammy for not honoring God’s directions for life.  To start with you damage yourself (and often those around you) and secondly you damage the reputation of Christ.  I am amazed at how many young people who go to church and profess Christ have chosen to rebel against their loving heavenly Father as if they know better.  One of the most common indications of their rebellion is fornicating with their girlfriend/boyfriend and more recently delving into the same sex arena.

On some level the church only has itself to blame for this.  In many cases our churches and society have effectively removed many visible consequences and barriers relating to sin.  Whether sexual sin, gossip, divorce, gluttony or greed, we rarely correct, confront, rebuke or remove the offending brother, sister or couple.  Instead we offer marginally effective and short sighted, harm reduction (read sin consequence) alternatives.  You can get surgery to counter act your over eating and under moving, bankruptcy for over spending or under working, divorce for under committing or for over lusting, escaping to our private homes or changing churches for over talking (gossip) and adoption or abortion for being overly intimate.

Side Note:  On the gossip subject I think many people will just arrogantly stand there and do it anyway.

Actually I am in the harm reduction business as I manufacture and sell high security locks to prevent trailer thefts.  The tag line for my Ft. Knox Locks business is “Setting the gold standard in protecting your assets”.  You have to wonder how protected the “assets” of all those Ashley Madison customers feel about now knowing their names have been made public as having an account on the “Life is Short, Have an Affair” website.  Here was a secular company trying to eliminate or reduce any consequences for having an affair.  How did that work for millions?

There are naturally occurring bad consequences for sin and those consequences were inherently designed to hurt us and thus turn us away from harmful activity.  But remove or lessen the cost and impact of sin and guess what?  Sin abounds – who knew?  God knew: which is why He made a way to escape eternity’s ultimate judgment and perhaps even some of the consequences while here on earth.  Why don’t we focus on the fact that there are abundant and wonderful benefits for honoring and obeying God’s laws?  But instead people have been trying for millennium to skirt the consequences of breaking God’s laws to no avail.  It may seem that some succeed or that they succeed for a season of time.  But sincere Christians must stop banging their heads against the laws of God.  You will lose in the end.  And you are just as likely to take others with you down that broad and socially accepted road that leads nowhere but self gratification – and then you die.  But for those who choose the narrow, unpopular and less traveled road labeled “servants of the most high God” those good consequences and promises of the Father await.

Did another one bite the dust? We’re not quite sure.

There are some questions when asked and then answered one is left with …. well, an answer.  There are other times when, for whatever reason, answers are given in such a way as to avoid being pinned down as having given …. well, an answer.  Such is the recent dilemma placed on Pastor Houston and Hillsong church in responding to reports that one of the male choir directors of the NYC branch announced his engagement last year to one of the male choir members.

For the purpose of illustration, to make a point about trying to differentiate between sins, and of course to be PC on this very pop culture hot topic, I am going to flip the sin to gossip and insert that sin into the narrative.  HOPEFULLY gossip is still one of those things that, although many engage in this abomination, they would never defend it.  So here goes.

A couple of members of the choir in Hillsong NYC have announced they are unrepentant gossips.  Hillsong indicated they were “asked” to step down from leadership.   In response to questions about this announcement by the gossiping couple the pastor of Hillsong NYC, Pastor Carl Lentz, responded

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where gossiping, just like it is today, was widely prevalent. And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.  You won’t find it because He never did”. Lentz went on to say   “We have a lot of men and women who gossip in our church and I pray we always do”.

I must interject here for the purpose of TRUTH, whereas I’m sure gossip was prevalent in Israel in that day, some “other” sins were NOT prevalent in Israel as capital punishment was exacted for some of the “other” sins and as such were simply NOT common, as Lentz suggest, and it might actually have seemed odd for Jesus, while speaking significantly on the subject of sexual immorality, to single out an abomination not prominent in that day in that nation.

lentz 1

That’s Pastor Lentz on the left with Justin Bieber & Usher at an NBA game.

In an interview with Playbill.com, Josh Canfield (one of the gossips) said “I became truthful with my church. I’m a part of Hillsong NYC. I’m one of their choir directors. I also sing on their Worship team. They’ve been amazing as well. Nothing has changed there now that I’m completely out (about gossiping) with Reed. He sings in the choir as well”.

lentz 2

Here is the “gossiping” couple!

Senior Pastor of Hillsong international, Brian Houston, said in response to comments on gossiping given by Lentz

“What Carl always says for us, it’s a conversation.  For us, it’s easy to reduce what you think about gossiping to just a public statement. And that would keep a lot of people happy. But we feel at this point, it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a “yes” or “no” answer”.

Charisma Magazine reported that at a news conference for Hillsong in New York City, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify his church’s position on gossiping. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was

“an ongoing conversation” among church leaders, and they were “on the journey with it”

The most recent official response from Hillsong and Pastor Houston on gossiping reads

“Hillsong’s position on gossip and gossipers has not changed and is consistent with Scripture. As I have stated previously, I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.  Several months ago when one of our choir directors made an unexpected public statement regarding his decision to become a gossip with a man who sometimes sang in the choir, it was a complete surprise to us as well. It is my understanding that they have not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since. That said, we still love them and acknowledge that they – like all of us – are on a journey, and our role as a church is to assist them on this journey with grace and compassion.”

On the subject of gossiping, Carl Lentz is on record from the pulpit of Hillsong NYC as saying

“We have a stance on love, and on everything else we have conversations.  Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements”.

Question:  Just when did the subject of gossiping become a political issue?  I thought it was a sin issue which separates us from God, salvation and eternity?  But I digress – actually maybe not!

Senior Pastor Houston is on the record on the subject of gossip as saying –

“The world we live in, whether we like it or not, is changing around and about us.  The world’s changing, and we want to stay relevant as a church, so that’s a vexing thing.” Adding  that it is appropriate to consider the words of the bible alongside the changing culture and the experience of the people in the pews.

So can you help me here?  Exactly what is Hillsong’s position on gossiping?  Which scriptures are they being consistent with?  Which writings of Paul do they see as clear on gossip?  Scripture says a lot of things on a myriad of subjects.  Is it too much to ask for a yes or no answer on gossiping?  Is it too much to ask they actually give reference to which of Paul’s writings they are referring to on the subject of gossiping like in Romans 1

26 For this reason God allowed their shameful passions to control them. Their women have exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 Likewise, their men have given up natural sexual relations with women and burn with lust for each other. Men commit indecent acts with men, so they experience among themselves the punishment they deserve for their perversion.28 And because they thought it was worthless to acknowledge God, God allowed their own immoral minds to control them. So they do these indecent things. 29 Their lives are filled with of all kinds of sexual sins, wickedness, and greed. They are mean. They are filled with envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, and viciousness. They are GOSSIPS 30 slanderers, haters of God, haughty, arrogant, and boastful. They think up new ways to be cruel. They don’t obey their parents, 31 don’t have any sense, don’t keep promises, and don’t show love to their own families or mercy to others. 32 Although they know God’s judgment that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do these things but also approve of others who do them.

In conclusion, NOW can you tell me what scripture/Paul clearly says about gossiping (among other things)?